11 July 2024

New Delhi, India – An Indian model sparked an online backlash Saturday after revealing she had faked her death in an Instagram post as part of a cervical cancer awareness campaign.

Poonam Pandey “bravely fought the disease” and died, according to a statement published on her social media Friday, but the fake announcement was soon met with online criticism that included accusations it was a “deceptive stunt”.

A flurry of obituaries from media outlets followed the original announcement and her Wikipedia page was also updated to reflect her apparent death, while Bollywood stars posted mournful tributes.

But others had expressed scepticism after noticing that footage of Pandey aboard a boat in Goa, apparently in good health, had been posted to her account four days before the announcement.

The 32-year-old conceded to her 1.3 million followers in another video posted on Instagram that her death had been a hoax.
“Yes, I faked my demise, extreme I know. But suddenly we all are talking about cervical cancer, aren’t we?” Pandey said.

“I am proud of what my death news has been able to achieve.”
However, many lambasted Pandey for what one commenter described as her “attention-seeking behaviour”.

Another wrote: “Engaging in a deceptive stunt, like faking one’s death, under the guise of ‘raising awareness’… is not only unethical but also manipulative.

“Honestly shame on you for this stunt. Next time no one will take your real death seriously!” they said.

Pandey began her modelling career in 2010 and has garnered a reputation for outlandish stunts and risque behaviour.

She pledged to strip for the India cricket team if they won the 2011 Cricket World Cup at home, later posting a video online of her shedding her clothes at Wankhede Stadium where the tournament’s final was held.

Pandey parleyed her fame into several acting credits in Bollywood including the 2013 erotic thriller Nasha, in which she played a teacher who begins a sexual relationship with two high school students.

India accounts for nearly one-quarter of the world’s cervical cancer cases, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 200 women losing their lives every day to the disease.

Health campaigners have urged the government to roll out a national HPV vaccination campaign for young girls, which in other countries has drastically cut the incidence of cervical cancer.

By Agence France Presse